“The idea to establish a rehabilitation centre was flatly rejected, mainly because the Latvian media made a big fuss over it,” said Oskars Leinerts, head of Saulkrasti hospital and a representative on the city council in the capital Riga.
“The media and politicians spread fears that such a centre would be a hotbed of evil. It is tragic, what was made out of this good plan. Local people started fearing that Swedish addicts would be running around the place with needles,” he told AFP.
“Nobody wants to be a political corpse, so that’s why lawmakers rejected the idea,” Leinerts added.
Last month, officials in Latvia said they were in favour of the plan by Stockholm City Council to open the centre in Saulkrasti despite opposition from various groups in both nations.
Swedish trade unions said they were worried the centre would take jobs from Swedish workers, while some Latvians complained their country would become a dumping ground for the 18- to 25-year-old addicts the centre’s planners hoped to treat in Saulkrasti, a Baltic Sea resort town 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Riga.
Latvia, which joined the EU last year, was chosen because services would be about half the price of what they would cost in Sweden, due to much lower salaries in the Baltic state.
In Sweden, the average monthly wage is 23,700 kronors while in Latvia it is 250 lats (3,200 kronor).
“For some 10 to 15 years we can forget about building a rehabilitation centre since the public attitude is so negative,” Leinerts lamented.